Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Spring 2018 Online Courses at the Stevenson School of Ministry

Here is a link to registration for online courses offered through the Stevenson School for Ministry in the Dio of Central PA. Scholarships are available.

Here are a few course descriptions:

Conversations in Celtic Spirituality with Rev. Dr. Mark Scheneman
This course is a five-week course specially designed for small groups in parishes. This course will undertake a pilgrimage into traditional and contemporary Celtic Spirituality. We will examine the rich and deep traditions of the Celtic Christian movement with particular attention to the dynamics and rhythms of connectedness, presence, and engagement in a spirituality we can claim as our own in this 21st century.


Greek for Preaching and Teaching II with Dr. Deirdre Good
(Prerequisite: Greek for Preaching and Teaching I or permission of the instructor) This is a course reading the gospels of Mark and John in conjunction with the lectionary readings. We will focus on syntax (parts of speech and forms), morphology (internal structure of words), theological issues, and semantic meanings. We will use traditional and online resources including the Greek New Testament, dictionaries, and Bible software.

Canon Law with Rev. Dr. Kara Slade
This course will provide an overview of canon law in the Episcopal Church as a preparation for ordination.

Ethics II with Rev. Dr. Kara Slade
At its best, the discipline of Christian ethics is nothing less than the adventure of discipleship, and I’m glad to join each of you this semester as we embark on it together. While this course draws on the work of a number of Anglican scholars, it is also intentionally ecumenical, bringing other voices to the table as well. Over the next 10 weeks, we will explore a range of topics that address how Christians can think and live morally – in our own lives and in our common life together: in families, in communities, in our nation, and in creation.

Hebrew Testament Survey Course with Rev. Dr. David Zwifka
Learn more about Covenant, and the journey of the ancient people of God. This course examines the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) as an expression of the religious life and thought of ancient Israel and a foundational document of Western civilization.

Preaching in Challenging Times with Rev. Shawn Strout
(Prerequisite: Homiletics I or permission of instructor)
This course is both for the student preacher and the experienced preacher. Preachers are called to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ no matter the circumstances. How do we proclaim this Good News in challenging times? In this course, we will discuss three types of challenging sermons: liturgical, pastoral, and prophetic sermons. Students will preach three times, videotaping themselves and the class will discuss the sermons via Zoom. Therefore, access to a digital recorder and a webcam/microphone will be required.

Sharing the Lectionary with Dr. Deirdre Good
This is a course sharing and proclaiming the lectionary for Epiphany, Lent, and Easter 2018. We will pay particular attention to the Gospels of Mark and John and also discuss readings for the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple (Feb 2), Feast of St Joseph (March 19), the Annunciation (April 9), and for Holy Week (March 25-April 1) .

Synoptics I with Dr. Deirdre Good
There are four gospels in the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. While John is distinctive, Matthew, Mark, and Luke can be studied alongside one another because of overlapping content. Thus, they are identified as the Synoptic Gospels from Greek words connoting “seen with” or “seen together.” In this course, we will cover all of Mark’s Gospel studying it alone and attending to parallel passages such as the parable of the Sower/Seeds/Soils in Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

When God Spoke Greek: The LXX and the Making of the Christian Bible by Timothy Michael Law (OUP 2013)

When God Spoke Greek: The LXX and the Making of the Christian Bible by Timothy Michael Law (OUP 2013) explains the origins of the Septuagint and how these texts became Christian Scripture.
A wonderful presentation by the author can be viewed here:


The LXX consists of a variety of texts including translations from Hebrew texts themselves as well as compositions in Greek (e.g. books of the Maccabees, and the Wisdom of Solomon). The Latin number 70 derives from the letter of Aristeas identifying 70 or 72 translators who worked on the first translation. Here's a good English translation of the LXX.

It's not possible to understand the NT without the LXX. Most of the citations of Hebrew Scripture in the NT come from the LXX. Mark 7: 6-7, for example, applies the LXX text of Isaiah 29:13, not the Hebrew, to argue that because people were obsessed with human tradition and teachings, they were unable to worship truly. Hebrew Isaiah 29:13 argues that people were prevented from true worship because they sought to follow formal aspects of religion only, "and their worship of me is a human commandment learned by rote.."

Luke 4:18 shows Jesus reading from the scroll of Isaiah to declare that his ministry is to proclaim "recovery of sight to the blind" (LXX Isaiah 61:1), a reference that is absent from the Hebrew. This language is picked up in the description of Jesus' healing ministry in Luke 7:22.

Paul specifically relies on e.g. the LXX of Isaiah in Romans in many places such as 2:24, "Because of you, my name is continually blasphemed among all the nations," in which a pointed accusation against Israel from Isaiah is used to make a prophetic judgment by Paul for the rejection of the people of Israel since they continue to reject Christ.

Use of the intensive verb eisakouw, hear, listen, attend to (prayer or petition) in the NT e.g. at Lk 1, 13; Acts 10:31 may well be influenced by the extensive use of the verb in the LXX Psalm texts.

In the urban expansion of Jesus' followers in a Greek-speaking world, it is the Greek version of Hebrew Scriptures that is the important vehicle for proclamation of the faith.


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

David Bentley Hart's new translation of The New Testament

David Bentley Hart's new translation of the New Testament is a breath of fresh air: responsible, creative, and inspiring. Yale University Press is to be commended for encouraging and publishing this excellent new translation. If heeded, it could well influence and improve translations produced in committee work such as the NRSV.

David Bentley Hart is an Eastern Orthodox scholar of religion, and a philosopher, writer, and cultural commentator. He is a fellow at the Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study and has held positions at the University of Virginia, Duke University, and Providence College.

Why produce a new translation of the New Testament? The author explains: "To be honest, I have come to believe that all the standard English translations render a great many of the concepts and presuppositions upon which the books of the New Testament are built largely impenetrable, and that most of them effectively hide (sometimes forcibly) things of absolutely vital significance for understanding how the texts’ authors thought." Committee work of many modern translations results in imprecision, "anodyne blandness" and accommodation.


The author wanted instead to produce "a version that would be by my lights as scrupulously faithful as I could make it, that would not merely reiterate conventional readings of the text, and that would allow me to call attention to features of the Greek original usually invisible in English versions proved irresistible." In fact, the author's aim is "to help awaken readers to mysteries and uncertainties and surprises in the New Testament documents that often lie wholly hidden from view beneath layers of received hermeneutical and theological tradition. And I would hope my translation would succeed, in many places, in making the familiar strange, novel, and perhaps newly compelling." A more formal translation, the author adheres to the idea that an unsettling reading is the more accurate one.


Whilst we can agree that writers of the New Testament do not write well even within the latitude of Koine (common) Greek of the time, and that the New Testament itself is a strange compilation of disparate and disjointed texts urgently trying to communicate experiences of revelation: what is seen and heard in ways that stretch limits of language, we can also affirm their utter commitment to radical and uncomfortable ideas like the assertion that personal wealth is intrinsically evil. 


In my judgment, David Bentley Hart has succeeded admirably. For example, hidden by most modern translations, is the alternation of Matthew, Mark, and John between past and present tenses in narrative and speech. Our translator preserves the strange juxtaposition of both, because "it endows the text with a peculiar vividness; at least, to me there is a strikingly plain plangency to “They crucify him” that is qualitatively different from the effect of “They crucified him.”  Most modern translations eliminate the present tense and substitute the historic present, namely a past tense. As for significant words: Χριστός (Christos) is rendered “Anointed”; διάβολος (diabolos) by “Slanderer”; ἐκκλησία (ekklēsia) “assembly” rather than “church,” "simply to make the reader aware that it was once an ordinary word with an ordinary meaning." Not everyone would agree that "Son of Man" must be capitalised as a "distinctive prophetic title" without discussion, since the Aramaic phrase also describes a human being as the author knows.  On terminology for Jesus, John 1 is especially interesting "In the origin there was the Logos, and the Logos was present with GOD, and the Logos was god; This one was present with GOD in the origin." The choice is explained in "A Concluding Unscientific Postscript." I might quibble with rendering Logos as a masculine pronoun given Tyndale's translation using "it" in vv 3-5, and I think that greater attention to issues of gender and inclusive language would include a wider audience, but see what you think.





Podcast Interview with Prof Katie Day hosted by Prof James McGrath

Prof James McGrath of Butler University was kind enough to invite Prof Katie Day and myself to join him in a recent podcast on our co-ed...